For Reel

Christine (2016)
October 22, 2016, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Antonio Campos
4 Stars
christineThat viewers already know what happened to Christine Chubbuck on July 15th, 1974 is crucial to the experience of watching Christine, Antonio Campos’ impressive biopic about the woman who shot herself on live on air. This necessity is one of the film’s biggest strengths, but it can also make one question the whole project’s conception—if it shades the film with an undeniable sense of dread (which is furthered by scenes such as one in which Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) converses with a creepy gun dealer), it feels exploitative in that the film and Chubbuck herself can only be understood as a timebomb. The question of taste will remain unsolved (the film is more sympathetic than not, but still remains somewhat elusive), but Hall’s performance as Chubbuck is unambiguously remarkable. There aren’t any prosthetics that obscure the actresses’ physical features, and yet Hall is almost entirely unrecognizable—from her vocal performance, to her posture, to the way Hall both shades Chubbuck’s psychological despair and her undeniable talents as a reporter. Hall depicts Chubbuck as more than capable at her job, and actually fairly adaptable despite an impossible boss (played by Tracy Letts, who has become one of the great character actors in recent years). Tragically, Campos’ version of the brown-and-mustard 1970s involves characters who are woefully naive about psychological illnesses. As a film about the indignities suffered by a woman in the workplace, it is remarkably affecting. That Chubbuck’s gruesome display served as an ironic comment on trash-media, “if it bleeds, it leads!” culture makes one question the ethics of watching a film that will certainly end with a woman blowing her brains out, but Campos and Hall propel the underlying current of morbid curiosity into something that feels genuinely thoughtful and well-intentioned.

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